Why is my Bird’s Nest Fern dying?

Last Updated: September 1, 2022

These Ferns definitely won’t be winning the award for the easiest houseplant to care for anytime soon as they can be a little temperamental. If you’ve noticed signs that your Bird’s Nest Fern is dying then it’s important you diagnose what’s going on as soon as possible. The earlier you catch what’s causing your Fern to start dying, the sooner you can get to treat it and revive your plant. 

In this article, we will go through each of the causes of a dying Bird’s Nest Fern as well as how to treat the problem and prevent it from impacting your Fern again in future.

A dying Bird’s Nest Fern can indicate overwatering

Bird’s Nest Ferns are quite sensitive to overwatering and need their potting mix to dry out between waterings to prevent root rot. 

If you think you may have overwatered your plant then you must inspect the soil first before making any changes to your routine. You want to make sure that this is definitely the problem as the same symptoms can occur for various things. Carefully take your plant out of the pot and inspect the roots and soil. If the potting mix is soggy and clumpy then it is most likely overwatering that is causing your Bird’s Nest Fern to start dying. Another thing to look out for is if the roots have started to rot as these will appear very dark brown or black in colour and be soft to touch. 

To solve the issue and revive your dying Bird’s Nest Fern, remove and replace all of the potting mix. You might want to downsize the pot as less soil means it’ll dry out quicker in future. Carefully remove as much of the old potting mix from the root system so that it can start to recover. If the roots are badly damaged then trim away the worst affected areas. This will encourage your plant to grow new roots and not waste precious energy trying to keep the rotting ones alive.

Outside from watering too much or two frequently, there is one other thing around watering to consider when diagnosing a dying Bird’s Nest Fern. It’s very important that you don’t get the leaves on your Bird’s Nest Fern wet when watering your plant. This can mean the leaves will actually start to rot, especially during the colder months of the year. Instead, use a long spouted watering can to ensure you can water very close to the soil. 

Low humidity can also cause a dying Bird’s Nest Fern

As they are native to tropical areas, humid environment is vital for a healthy Bird’s Nest Fern and they can really struggle if your home has dry air. This problem usually intensifies during winter as the heating and lack of ventilation will lead to much drier air. If the leaves have begun to go a little dry from the tips and edges inward or are curling inwards then a lack of humidity may be the problem.

Here are a few ways to increase humidity for your plant:

  1. Mist the leaves on your dying Bird’s Nest Fern

    This is one of the easiest ways to increase the humidity for your plant. Use a spray bottle to mist the leaves a few times a week. It’s important that you mist your Bird’s Nest Fern in the middle of the day so that there is enough time for the water droplets to evaporate before nightfall. Cold temperatures and damp leaves are the perfect mix for root rot.

  2. Use a pebble tray

    Fill up a tray with small stones and fill it up halfway with water. Place your Bird’s Nest Fern on top of the pebbles and over the course of the day the water will evaporate under your plant. Always make sure the plant is not sitting in the water though as this will cause waterlogged soil and root rot and cause more issues to your already dying Bird’s Nest Fern.

  3. You might want to find a new spot

    If you have good lighting in either your kitchen or bathroom then we recommend moving your Bird’s Nest Fern in there. The natural humidity from showering and cooking makes them a great spot for your plant.

  4. Purchase  a humidifier

    These affordable little devices keep the humidity in the room at a consistent level so are great for houseplants. It takes all of the worry away and will do wonders for plants with long thin leaves where brown leaf tips are common.

Temperature extremes might also be to blame

Another potential factor that may be causing your Bird’s Nest Fern to begin dying is extreme temperatures, in particular cool air and drafts. They need warm environments to really thrive and can get quite shocked and damaged by drafts coming in from outside. But it’s not just cold air from outside during winter that you need to be concerned about as air conditioning units can wreak havoc with your Bird’s Nest Fern’s health. 

Make sure that you draft-proof any windows or doors that are close to your dying Bird’s Nest Fern (as well as any heat-loving tropical plants) and move them 1 meter away from air conditioning or heating vents.

Pests can also cause a Bird’s Nest Fern to die

One thing to look out for when trying to diagnose your dying Bird’s Nest Fern is pests. Although it’s not that common in plants that don’t spend any time growing outdoors, it can still happen that insects such as mealybugs, spider mites, scale insects use your plant as their new home. 

Take a thorough look over your dying Bird’s Nest Fern looking for signs of pests including yellow or brown spots, holes in the leaves, white webbing or powder on the leaves and of course visible pests themselves. Whilst some of the bigs and signs are visible to the naked eye, use a magnifying glass just to be sure to catch anything. 

Your first port of call to reviving your Bird’s Nest Fern and getting rid of the pests is to remove the worst affected leaves. This will help to curb the infestation initially and make the infestation easier to tackle. Then you want to wipe down the leaves with warm water as well as wash them down in the sink.

If the infestation continues, you might need to replace the potting mix as this is where some pests lay their eggs. Alongside these methods, you should also treat your Bird’s Nest Fern with neem oil or another insecticide to fight the infestation.

Make sure to isolate your Bird’s Nest Fern from other houseplants whilst it is undergoing treatment as pests can move across leaves that are close or touching.

Those are the most common factors that can cause a Bird’s Nest Fern to start dying. Once you’ve properly diagnosed the issue, it’s important to keep a very close eye on your Fern over the next few weeks to ensure that the changes you’ve made are reviving it.

Take a look through our Bird’s Nest Fern care guide to learn more about how to keep your plant thriving for years to come

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